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Walk the Talk

7/26/20 1 Peter 3:8-9 8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. We are called to be holy. In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we read: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” It is through ‘faith’ that we identify and accept the path and power by which we can do God’s work in this world. And it is through ‘doing,’ or ‘works’, that we become and remain the vehicle through which God moves. Both are important; one supports the other: the path and the vehicle. This week I’d like to spend just a little more time on ‘doing’. As many of you probably already know, I believe that we are each here to do what we can in the way of serving others. I think serving is tops on my list of how God can move through us. I sincerely appreciate the words attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion must look out into the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. Niccolò Paganini was a virtuoso violinist in the 1800's. Although a wonderful composer, in his day he was better known as a superlative performer. Of his many violins, he preferred to play one made by Joseph Guarneri made in 1743. Written reviews said that when Paganini performed there were two celebrities on stage: the virtuoso and the Guarneri violin, legendary as the most beautiful of his instruments. When Paganini died in 1840, twenty of his violins were passed to his son. In 2005, for the first time, one of the twenty came up for auction, a Bergonzi from 1720, and sold for $1.01 million. It had been transferred from owner to owner and had been played by New York Philharmonic concertmaster from 1943 to 1966. Legend has it that one of Paganini’s beloved instruments had been bequeathed to an Italian city upon his death, with the explicit order never to be played. The instrument began its public displayed in its diamond-studded case, but today, all that is left of the display is the case. According to this legend, although other Stradivarius and Guarneri violins are currently still in play and are in superb condition, this instrument today is nothing more than dust in a case. This legend is based upon the notion that a wooden musical instrument will remain strong and viable if played, even a small amount, but if neglected the wood disintegrates. I don’t really buy the idea that an instrument, such as a violin, will turn to dust. But I do know that the instrument can start to deteriorate without proper maintenance. The wood can dry out and split, the glues can weaken, and joints can separate. The instrument can literally fall apart. How many people around us seem to be nothing more than ‘dust in a case’? Perhaps we feel like this ourselves sometimes - that we are in a state of decomposition as we live out our lives; that we are on public display yet the music within us is silent, we are not using what God has given us. There are times when I feel like this, and almost always when I take a close look it is because I am not ‘doing’ for others; I am only ‘doing’ for myself, or not ‘doing’ at all. As our life situations change, our ‘doing’ will also change. We know that any change in our life, whether financial, in our health or relationships, will reflect the changes we first make inside - at the soul level - with our thoughts, words, and actions. The music that God wants us to express, the flow of that Creative Presence in and through us, will also change as we move through life. But play we must, or the disintegration begins. How we serve in our 40's is different than how we serve in our 20's. Our 50's and 60's, requires a different means of expression than our 40's. When we reach our 70's, 80's and beyond, the danger is that we can believe we are of no value to this life, so we stop living entirely. That is why I so much respect the lives of people who, despite their age, have found ways to serve and give to others. Up until her fall, my Mom tended to her garden and yard to the delight of her neighbors. She has found an indirect way to serve others through providing me with jokes to read in church. We don’t have to be 70, 80, or 90 to become ’dust in a case’; that process begins shortly after denying and muting the gifts that are within us, regardless of age. Instead, we can choose to actively serve others and give of our gifts as long as the body allows. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours,” yet how can the Christ light within us shine, how can God create through us if we are unwilling to use our hands and feet? No matter where we are on life’s journey, we have not reached our capacity for giving, becoming, and doing. We still have a story to tell, a part to play, a song to sing, and a smile to share. We don’t need to traverse the earth or discover a new star to contribute. We start right where we are. When we find our self, recognize, and embrace that true spiritual nature that we are, we will find our horizons broadening and our vision reawakening. When we live from the Now, and are present, awake, alive, and focused right on this moment, we allow God’s love to flow through us into the present moment and into other people. As we pray and wait in the Silence, when we feel Spirit’s gentle guidance, it is time to move into action - we use our hands, feet, eyes, and hearts in accordance with that guidance. In Matthew 12:13, before healing a man Jesus told him to “stretch out your arm”. Jesus didn’t need an out-stretched arm to heal the man. He helped the man transform his desire to be healed into an action; to move from desire to deed, to ‘doing’. James 2:17 tells us Faith, without works, is dead. I like the Biblical translation used in The Message for verses 14-17: Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? It’s the difference between the two expressions “talking the talk” and “walking the talk”. Sometimes I can feel so pious and righteous because I speak the words of Spirit. My ego sometimes tells me that I am “talking the talk”. I am sharing the words and ideas. But it is more difficult to “show me the money” to use another phrase popularized in the movie Jerry McGuire. Sometimes I can talk-the-talk, but I don’t walk-the-talk. They are two separate things, each within our own control. We’ve met people who walk-the-talk...they are out there giving of their time, talents, treasure. They volunteer for community activities, they sign up to open the church, they stop to help people along the way. They complement, encourage, raise up others with their words and actions. They look for ways to contribute. This church is filled with people who walk-the-talk. We also know people who talk-the-talk and that’s as far as it goes. Their words may appear hollow and devoid of intention, lacking in power. I encourage us to reserve judgement, because these good people are doing the best that they can. When their awareness is great enough, they will move into action. Learning to ‘Walk-the-talk’ is a process. First is to listen for that still small voice of God - to intently and with expectation seek the inner guidance of Spirit. So initially, we must become aware that there is a ‘talk’ at all, some kind of Truth that God wants to express through us or has called us to pursue. There is a talk. There is a voice. There is the word. There are instructions for us. Second, we affirm with our words that Truth being expressed through us; so we are talking-the-talk. We speak out loud what our heart is telling us. And finally, we move our feet! We apply action to that Truth and walk-the-talk. We do what the words are describing. We put shoes on our prayers and get into action. That is walking-the-talk. I like the expression attributed to St. Augustine, “Pray as if it all depends on God; work as if it all depends on you.” And then we apply God’s Wisdom to our actions and discern whose ‘talk’ we are ‘walking’: man’s or God’s; Ego or Spirit. As we continue to tune in and listen to God, subtle changes occur within us, which allow an even greater flow of God’s expression into us, through us, and then out into the world. As we willingly allow God to use our hands and feet, just as in physical exercise we become stronger. As we allow God to see through our eyes, our vision becomes clearer. As we allow God to speak through us our voice becomes more vibrant and confident. So, it is my prayer that through our inner guidance God will show us our path, and we will walk that path. I pray that God will give us the Word, and we will walk that Word. Christ will supply the breeze, but we must hoist the sail. We are called by Spirit to move into action, to serve, to use our gifts, to play the music that is within us, and to stretch out our hand. Above all else, we are called to do what is right, to be holy, which is simply God’s way of saying, “My Children, walk the talk, and lovingly put My good into action.”


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